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Bitter cold in Billings could lead to frostbite, so here's how to stay warm

Posted at 5:18 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 11:10:51-05

BILLINGS — No matter who you are, we can all agree that it's been bitterly cold across the Billings area over the past few days, and the sub-zero temperatures can leave you at risk for frostbite if you're not careful.

"When you start feeling those fingers and toes getting cold, maybe it's time to go inside," said Beth McCotter, Billings Clinic trauma outreach clinician on Wednesday.

Beth Mcotter, Billings Clinic RN and outreach clinician for the trauma department details the dangers of frostbite to MTN News.

This might be common knowledge, but it's worth a reminder with temps that dipped to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit over Tuesday night: layers of clothing are your best defense against cold and frostbite.

"I think it kind of sneaks up on everybody, because you think that you are properly dressed. And by the time that you realize that your fingers are cold, you might be behind the eight ball," she said.

Proper footwear, socks, gloves hats, scarves and coats are all good items to bring along if you have to take an adventure or long drive outdoors.

"But if you don't have to be out in these elements, make sure you are staying in and staying warm," McCotter said.

And the wind doesn't do you any favors when it comes to frostbite. The faster it blows, the less time you have before your body tissues start to freeze. The worst-case scenario is amputation of frostbit limbs or digits. If you were out in the elements last night, frostbite would have started to set in on exposed skin after only 10 minutes with a 15-mile-per-hour wind.

This chart shows the risk for frostbite when combined with wind and cold temps.

"Even a little breeze like today, it's only seven miles per hour out there right now. But it's knocked down our factors from 30 minutes to 10 minutes with that little bit of a breeze. It doesn't take much to make it much harder on yourself," McCotter said.

If you do come down with a case of frostbite, do not rub the affected area or apply direct heat from something like a fireplace to warm it up. Instead, soak the area in warm water and get to a warm, dry place. Of course, you can reach out to your doctor for any specific questions.

For more information about frostbite and how to prevent it, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website by clicking here.

Ice sickles hang from the roof of the former Denny's location in downtown Billings on a bitterly cold Wednesday afternoon.

RELATED: Tips to stay safe during Montana's winter weather